UK Archbishop Kicks Over Lender's Table, Starts Own Biz
Today in international tech news: A British archbishop slams a short-term loan startup; Dutch regulators rule that financial institutions can use Amazon cloud services; the UK isn't sold on OECD tax amendments; and Microsoft plans to launch a program in South Africa to test delivery of Internet connectivity over TV white space.
Not for the first time, Justin Welby, the head of the Church of England and the archbishop of Canterbury, took a jab at UK-based online lender Wonga, claiming he told Wonga's CEO, "we're trying to compete you out of existence."
The Church of England is in the process of forming its own quasi-lending agency -- the "Anglican Mutual Credit Union" -- for clergy and employees, and hopes to have it up and running by the fall of 2014. Needless to say, its interest rates would be far less than those at Wonga, a 6-year-old startup that provides short-term loans with interest rates of about 1 percent per day. (A US$600 one-month loan, for instance, is liable to accrue interest and fees of about $190.)
In the past, Welby has said that companies like Wonga violate the Bible's ban on usury, or the practice of making unethical or immoral loans.
Wonga CEO Errol Damelin defended Wonga (and his soul) by saying the company prevents users from accumulating huge bills over long periods, and that Wonga is specifically for short-term fixes.
Playing along with Welby's spiritual condemnation, Wonga released the "Ten Commitments" on its blog, vowing -- among other things -- to be transparent about the price of loans, running credit checks and not slipping in hidden fees.
UK Questions Impact of OECD Tax Reforms
The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development's proposed tax reforms might not be enough to stop multinational companies from skirting taxes, Britain's House of Lords warned.
The UK has been particularly zealous going after multinationals, especially tech companies, which it believes are sneakily, if legally, avoiding taxes. Google, Twitter, Amazon and eBay are among those to have faced accusations from British regulators claiming that the companies are booking UK profits in Ireland and Luxembourg -- countries that happen to have lower corporate tax rates -- and thereby avoiding UK taxes.
The OECD unveiled reforms ahead of a July G20 summit. Multinational tax reform was also a major talking point at June's G8 summit.
These reforms, however, won't necessarily be enough to plug holes that allow companies to avoid taxes in the UK, according to a House of Lords committee, which means "the UK faces the prospect of losing much-needed revenue."
[Source: The Guardian]
Dutch Banks Allowed to Use Amazon Cloud
In the Netherlands, regulators have given the go-ahead to financial institutions to use Amazon's cloud service.
In a release, Amazon said that the ruling by Dutch financial regulator De Nederlandsche Bank cleared the way for Dutch financial operators, including websites, mobile apps and retail banks, to use Amazon Web Services and the AWS Cloud.
The announcement comes as European regulators publicly question the viability of U.S.-based cloud services, which some believe are willingly dishing information to the National Security Agency.
[Source: The Register]
Microsoft to Use TV White Space for Internet
Microsoft South Africa plans to launch a trial for delivering Internet connectivity via TV white space in rural parts of the country.
The project will run one year and tap into the so-called white space, which refers to unused parts of the analog TV spectrum. The project is designed to determine which parts of the spectrum are best for transmitting connectivity.
Microsoft will connect five schools in the Limpopo region -- one of the poorest in the country -- to a single antenna in hopes that the schools will have download speeds of up to 4 Mbps. The company will also provide computers and IT training to teachers.
Microsoft has run similar white space projects in Tanzania and Kenya, while Google is conducting its own white space trial in Western Cape, South Africa.
[Source: ZDNet ]